Australian budget pledges funds for NBN-related developments

11 May 2011

Australia’s Federal Budget, which was unveiled yesterday, saw the announcement that the state will allocate a total of AUD46.8 million (USD50.5 million) between a number of state departments for work associated with the country’s National Broadband Network (NBN), iTWire reports. Under the state’s plans AUD34.4 million will be handed to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) for additional work to support the finalisation of definitive agreements between fixed line incumbent Telstra and NBN Co, the public-private company set up to oversee the construction of the national fibre-optic infrastructure. The funding for the DBCDE is expected to allow for a number of actions of a five year period, including: the provision of a consumer information service on access to broadband, the Universal Service Obligation (USO) arrangements and the interim satellite service; the provision of specialist technical advice in relation to declaring premises adequately served by alternative high speed networks; the provision of information to consumers and small businesses about the NBN rollout and support for migration from the copper network to the fibre network; and the establishment of a new entity and legislative scheme for the changes to the USO arrangement.

Further, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will be given AUD7.2 million over four years, with the funding to be used to develop and monitor implementation of appropriate network standards and codes, including implementing a compliance, auditing and monitoring programme. For its part the Australian Competition Consumer Commission (ACCC) has been tasked with analysing competition on the new fibre network, and it will be given AUD5.6 million over a four year period for work including observing the level of transmission services provided by other wholesale providers to NBN Co points of interconnect, and setting appropriate benchmarks for transmission services to facilitate retail service providers’ access to uniform national wholesale prices.

Other telecoms-related funding announced in the budget included the news that the ACMA meanwhile will be handed AUD8.3 million over three years to support the auction of spectrum in the 700MHz and 2500MHz bands, with the funding to be directed towards any preparatory work needed prior to the sale of such frequencies. Telstra meanwhile be given AUD2.2 million to cover the cost of providing customers in remote regions access to untimed local calls; the telco must offer such services in 98 ‘extended zones’, which between them cover around 80% of Australia’s geographical area, but only account for around 40,000 telephony accesses.